September 23, 2017
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As-yet unidentified tremors were detected in North Korea early Saturday near the site of previous nuclear weapons tests. While China labeled the 3.4-magnitude quake a "suspected explosion" that could be Pyongyang's second nuclear test in a matter of weeks, an official from South Korea's meteorological agency said initial assessments indicate it was more likely a natural earthquake. North Korea has not commented either way.

On Friday, North Korea's foreign minister, Ri Yong Ho, said his government might test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean. "This could probably mean the strongest hydrogen bomb test over the Pacific Ocean," Ri announced. "Regarding which measures to take, I don't really know since it is what Kim Jong Un does."

Also Friday, President Trump once again called North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "Rocket Man," the latest in a series of insults the two men have traded this week. Bonnie Kristian

September 2, 2017
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The White House announced Friday evening that it is adjusting plans for HBCU Week, an annual conference for historically black colleges and universities. This comes after uproar among some HBCU leaders and members of Congress over President Trump's responses to the white nationalist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, last month.

"Responding to suggestions and feedback from many key stakeholders, the White House initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) will modify its planned conference to best meet the current needs of HBCUs, their students and the broader HBCU community," said a White House statement, describing the revised program as "more intimate" and "strategic."

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in August there was "a pretty lengthy waiting list" of HBCU leaders who wanted to attend the event. The Trump administration so far has had a difficult relationship with HBCUs; in February, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos came under fire for praising the institutions as "real pioneers" of school choice, and in May, Trump publicly mulled cutting a federal financial assistance program for HBCUs. Bonnie Kristian

August 20, 2017

President Trump responded on Twitter Saturday afternoon to the Boston counter-protest against a rally with ties to the white nationalists in Charlottesville. In his first two tweets on the subject, Trump praised Boston police and took a low view of the counter-protest crowd:

Then, later Saturday, he took a more positive view of the counter-protest:

Boston police arrested 33 people at the counter-protest Saturday, which was estimated to have as many as 40,000 people denouncing the "Boston Free Speech" rally, which drew about 20 people. Though a few counter-protesters were arrested for throwing debris at officers, Boston's police commissioner said injury and property damage were minimal because "99.9 percent of the people here were for the right reasons." Bonnie Kristian

July 26, 2017
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While new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci takes a "fire everyone" approach to dealing with leaks, embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions is expected to shortly launch criminal investigations to catch the executive branch leakers that have so frustrated President Trump.

Multiple unnamed officials told The Washington Post in a report published Tuesday evening that "Sessions is due to announce in coming days a number of criminal leak investigations based on news accounts of sensitive intelligence information." Fox News reported the same thing Wednesday, apparently citing a different official, who said the announcement has "been in the works for some time and will most likely happen sometime in the next week."

This comes as Trump continues his public attacks on Sessions, seemingly pushing the attorney general to resign. Among his complaints, the president said Tuesday, is that Sessions should "be much tougher on leaks in the intelligence agencies that are leaking like they never have before. ... You can't let that happen." Bonnie Kristian

July 17, 2017

Tourists, mostly American, visiting Israel's Gush Etzion settlement in the West Bank territory have a controversial attraction available to them, Reuters reports: a "counter-terror boot camp" offering participants a two-hour training in how to respond to a terrorist attack in a marketplace. Tourists are armed with mock weapons which they use to play out intense hypothetical scenarios in the experience arranged by a company called Caliber 3, which was founded by an officer in the Israeli army reserves:

Taking in the scene of a simulated fruit market in an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank, a group of tourists ponders whether a poster-size figure of an Arab man holding a cellphone is a threat and should be shot. [...] Admission includes watching former Israeli commandos take down an "attacker" and other means to thwart assaults, including the use of an attack dog. Adults can shoot live rounds at a firing range. [Reuters]

While organizers say the training offers valuable information and an engaging experience, the boot camp has proven contentious not only for its content — it is also organized on land Palestinians want for their own independent state. "The participation of tourists in training in these camps built on occupied Palestinian land means that they support the occupation and we ask them to stop it," said Mayor Yasser Sobih al-Khader, a nearby Palestinian town. Bonnie Kristian

June 26, 2017

Is President Trump trying to run the White House like a city hall? That's the proposal of Politico's Jack Shafer, who argues much of Trump's behavior that strikes us as strange in a president would make sense in a mayor:

Our classic big-city mayors all cut a similar figure. Even after winning office, they kept campaigning, stumping for their causes without apology. They blustered in the name of the neighborhoods, the parishes, and the synagogues. They feuded with their enemies. Loudly. They "fixed" things, looked for deal-making partners and struck alliances. They maintained peace between labor and capital, and they kept civil order. They played the booster. The classic mayors knew how to shame companies from moving their headquarters out of town, how to crowd their way to the center of any photo opportunity, how to junket, and how to get results. Most of all, classic mayors were virtuosos in the art of blowing their own horns. [Politico]

Trump seems most in his element, Shafer notes, when he engages in the sort of "civic theater that mayors specialize in" — the photo-ops and dramatic, well-publicized slayings of what are really rather tiny dragons. The "America's mayor" theory also explains Trump's predilection toward rule by personal influence and edict: City councils can be manhandled in a way Congress, the judiciary, and federal bureaucracy cannot. Read Shafer's full analysis here. Bonnie Kristian

June 19, 2017

On Sunday, President Trump's attorney, Jay Sekulow, argued Trump's "I am being investigated" tweet does not, in fact, mean the president is being investigated. "There is not an investigation of the president of the United States, period," Sekulow insisted on NBC News.

On Monday, White House counselor and chief spinmeister Kellyanne Conway doubled down on that claim:

"That's the president's personal lawyer. He's saying that nobody has ever notified the president that he's under investigation," Conway said of Sekulow's comments in an appearance on Fox News. The tweet, meanwhile, was "the president responding to a Washington Post report that included five anonymous sources. And that's the president, in his 140 characters, through his significant social media platform, Ainsley, telling everybody, 'Wow, look at the irony here.'"

Conway and Sekulow appear to be referring to this Wednesday Post piece citing five unnamed sources reporting Trump is under investigation for possible obstruction of justice, a story with which Trump's tweet apparently agreed. If Conway is correct, however, the real story may be that our president is a subtle and accomplished ironist of the highest caliber. Bonnie Kristian

June 11, 2017
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British Prime Minister Theresa May's office on Sunday denied a report in The Guardian that President Trump's planned state visit to the U.K. has been put on hold to avoid embarrassment.

Trump in a private call with May said "he does not want to go ahead with a state visit to Britain until the British public supports him coming" and "he did not want to come if there were large-scale protests and his remarks in effect put the visit on hold for some time," The Guardian reported, citing an unnamed "Downing Street adviser who was in the room."

"We aren't going to comment on speculation about the contents of private phone conversations," May's representative retorted. "The queen extended an invitation to President Trump to visit the U.K. and there is no change to those plans."

Update 12:54 p.m.: The White House also denied the Guardian report. Bonnie Kristian

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